Kelowna has a higher crime rate than any other major Canadian city, according to new figures released Thursday.

Statistics Canada reports the rate in Kelowna increased by six per cent from 2011 to 2012, bucking a nation-wide trend of declining crime rates.

Its rate surpassed that of 2011’s leader Regina, although the Saskatchewan city continues to report the highest Crime Severity Index, followed by Saskatoon and Kelowna. The index takes into account both the amount and relative seriousness of crimes.

Kelowna’s crime rate was almost three times as high as that of Toronto, which reported the lowest rate in Canada for the sixth year in a row.

Property crime rate up in Kelowna

The B.C. city’s dubious honour is due to a rise in property crimes; the silver lining is that rates of “persons offences,” such as assaults, have actually decreased in Kelowna.

Property crime increased by 13.5 per cent, partly due to increases of bicycle theft and theft from motor vehicles, which rose 73 per cent and 37.6 per cent, respectively.

Break-ins were up 7.2 per cent, an increase the Kelowna RCMP detachment is blaming largely on one particularly prolific offender who recently moved to West Kelowna from Calgary.

Insp. Nick Romanchuk, incoming head of the Kelowna RCMP, said he’s treating the news of a rising crime rate very seriously, but is hopeful his officers can reverse the trend.

“It is my goal that Kelowna is never again mentioned in a Stats Canada report on crime unless it is recognized for significant reductions in crime,” he said.

Despite the disappointing numbers released Thursday, Kelowna’s long-term crime rate has declined by 17.8 per cent since data collection began in 2006.

B.C. crime rates above national average

All four B.C. cities included in Statistics Canada’s report had crime rates above the national average of 5,588 crimes per 100,000 people.

  • Kelowna: 8,875 crimes (up six per cent from 2011)
  • Vancouver: 6,958 crimes (down two per cent)
  • Abbotsford-Mission: 6,148 crimes (down seven per cent)
  • Victoria: 5,958 crimes (down seven per cent)

While B.C.’s crime rate dropped by two per cent, only Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the three territories had higher crime rates than the province. Ontario reported the lowest rate.

National crime rate is in a long-term decline

The good news is that nation-wide, crime rates have dropped by three per cent, continuing a long-term decline.

Canada’s crime rate is now at its lowest level since 1972, and has declined by 44 per cent over the past 20 years.

Graham Farrell, a criminologist with Simon Fraser University, said the drop in crime is largely due to improved security measures, such as vehicle immobilizers that discourage car theft.

“You can’t hotwire a car anymore. The default is security,” he said.

Farrell said improved security measures could also help lower rates of phone theft and online crimes, which are actually becoming more common.

“We need to be very crime-specific and learn lessons,” he said.

The national violent crime and homicide rates are also at their lowest levels in decades, while the youth crime rate declined by seven per cent from 2011 to 2012.

As crime rates decline, spending on criminal justice has continued to rise in Canada.

Per capita spending on criminal justice climbed 23 per cent over the last decade, the parliamentary budget office reported in March. The Conservative party has introduced 30 bills designed to crack down on crime since Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office in 2006.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government has been working to improve efficiency in the justice system.

"We have, in fact, I believe, improved the way in which the system is functioning to some degree, but I don't believe we should stop ever trying to improve our justice system," MacKay said.

More data can be found at Statistics Canada’s website.

With files from the Canadian Press.